Betting on Horse Racing in the US
This page contains everything you need to know about online horse racing betting in the US, particularly where you can use the TVG.com and TwinSpires.com betting sites and apps to make legal bets on horse races.
You’ve probably heard about the explosion in legal sports betting in the US in 2018 but betting on horse racing has had a special status in the US for much longer than that.
Horse race betting sites and apps like TVG and TwinSpires have already been serving a significant portion of the American public for years, and the recent changes in online betting laws means that they are only becoming more widely available.
In this guide, you can find all the most up-to-date information about how and where you can bet on horse racing online in the US in 2020.
We’ll go into detail on:
- If it’s legal to bet on horse racing online and offline in the United States.
- Which US states allow horse race betting apps and websites.
- A closer look at the two biggest horse race betting sites, TVG and TwinSpires.
- How betting on horse racing online works.
- Tips and strategies for becoming successful betting on horses online.
Betting at the races is an American institution and thanks to online betting sites you can do it legally from the majority of US states right now. Even if you’re completely new to online betting on horse racing, all the information you need to get started quickly and easily is right here.
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What US States Allow Online Betting on Horse Racing?
TVG and TwinSpires are the two biggest and most popular online horse race betting sites in the US. Both sites also have their own dedicated mobile apps, which is how most people use the service.
We’ll go into more detail on each site later in this guide but for now we’ll cover which US states allow TVG and TwinSpires.
What States are TVG and TwinSpires Allowed in?
The list of available states is similar for each site, but there are some differences. Check out this table for the full picture:
|Arizona||Not online||Not online|
Yes (Under 4NJBets)
Is Betting on Horses Legal in the United States?
Betting on horse racing is legal in many states in the US, both online and offline.
Horse race betting has always had a different status to other kinds of sports betting and casino gambling, and it wasn’t included in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which acted as a federal ban on sports betting until it was removed in 2018.
Instead, betting on horse racing is enabled partly by the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978. The act not only allows race tracks to accept bets, but also to broadcast their races to other states across the US and accept bets from residents of those states, provided betting on horse racing is allowed by the state laws in both areas.
There were minor changes to the laws over the years as technology advanced, including allowing races to be broadcast and bets to be accepted over the internet.
There is a long tradition of legally betting on horse racing in the US, and as such the practise is subject to strict rules and regulations. The exact legal situation does vary from state to state, but if they are available, it means that legal sites and apps like TVG and TwinSpires have received a licence from the local state gaming commission and are completely safe to use.
If TVG or TwinSpires are available in your state, you can use them with total confidence that they are completely legal, and that your information and funds are private and protected.
TVG and TwinSpires
There are a few options out there for legal online horse race betting apps, but the two best horse race betting sites are TVG and TwinSpires.
- Modern and easy to use software, including cutting-edge mobile apps.
- A huge variety of horse racing bets available, including singles, single race combination bets and multi-race combinations.
- The ability to bet on hundreds of race tracks, both in the US and from around the world.
- Live coverage of horse races, so you can watch your bets come in live, right on the app.
- Availability in over half of the states in the US.
- Valuable offers and bonuses for new players.
TVG Company Information
TVG is probably the name most Americans recognize when it comes to broadcast horse racing. The company started life as a cable TV channel screening live horse racing in 1999. Back then you had to place your bets over the phone.
The rise of the internet was big for TVG, and the company moved quickly to capitalize on the new technology. A website which allowed users to bet online was followed a few years later by the mobile app. TVG’s horse race betting app is one of the best in all of online betting, and the site continues to refine it today.
Both the website and betting app show live footage from tracks around the world, as the company enjoys the fruits of the reputation they have built up over the last twenty years.
TwinSpires.com Company Information
TwinSpires was created in 2007 by Churchill Downs, the betting company named after the iconic racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. As the owner of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is the proprietor of the some of the most iconic races in the world.
TwinSpires was designed to be the official web destination for the company. Just like TVG, it has a dedicated app with live races broadcast and continues to grow across the US.
It’s worth repeating that TVG and TwinSpires are both 100% legal to use, as long as you are located in a state that allows it. Both sites are fully licenced and regulated by local gaming authorities. Being subject to so many bodies means that TVG and TwinSpires both require the highest standards of security, so you can use them in full confidence.
You can check out our full review of TVG here and TwinSpires here to help you decide which option is best for you. If you do decide to sign up, make sure you do so via our links so that you are sure to receive the most valuable welcome bonus.
States That Don’t Allow TVG
Horse race betting is not actually illegal in Alabama. Pari-mutuel betting is available at the three dog racing tracks in the state, where you can also bet on horse racing simulcasts from other states. Other venues have no live track but allow the same simulcast betting.
The reason TVG is not available in Alabama is not that the site is explicitly banned, rather that state laws do not directly address online horse race betting. Online gambling in general is banned, but since pari-mutuel betting is legal in the state, some online betting companies operate in Alabama without major issues, including TwinSpires.
The laws are not expected to change soon, and for now TVG does not consider it legally advisable to operate in the state while the laws are not clear.
Alaska has some of the strictest gambling laws in the US, and currently neither TVG nor TwinSpires operates in the state. There are no race tracks in Alaska, and betting on horse racing is not legal in the state in any form.
Although Alaska has been one of the more resistant states to relaxing gambling laws, recent activity may be seen as a chink of light for fans of betting in the state. An April 2019 bill was submitted which would allow card rooms to operate, outside of the native casinos which already exist there.
This could be perceived as the first step towards relaxing sports betting laws in general, but for now it looks like it will be a long time before either TVG or TwinSpires arrives in the state.
Arizona (partly available)
TVG has a complicated status in Arizona. The site is currently available to Arizona residents, but only tracks offered by Turf Paradise are available thanks to the agreement between the track and TVG.
Turf Paradise is a horse racetrack located in Phoenix, Arizona, which has been in operation since 1956.
Furthermore, bets may not be placed online. TVG users can access their accounts for deposits/withdrawals, streaming and other information, but to place a bet they must use the automated telephone wagering system.
Georgia is one of the most conservative states when it comes to gambling, and neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available in the state. Horse racing is illegal in the state, as are all forms of sports betting.
While Georgia had resisted the tide of public opinion as many states relaxed their sports betting laws from 2018, recent developments suggest that might not be the case for much longer.
A bill introduced in early 2019 was seen as the first steps in the journey towards legalization. It may be a long way off, but there is hope that TVG and TwinSpires might arrive to Georgia in the coming years.
Similar to Georgia, residents of the Aloha state have historically been reluctant to allow most forms of gambling in the state. Horse racing is not legal, and TVG and TwinSpires do not operate in Hawaii.
However, just like in Georgia, a bill was introduced in early 2019 that proposes to legalize sports betting in general, which would likely enable both sites to set up in the state. As the bill is in the very early stages, it will probably be a long time before any significant progress is made.
Although Kansas continues to have a rich tradition of training horses, there are currently no active race tracks in the state. Pari-mutuel betting was legalized in Kansas in 1986 when the state had four active tracks, but by 2010 all of the licences had been revoked.
Today the state laws do not make specific allowances for interstate online betting. TVG therefore is not available in Kansas, but TwinSpires is available for residents to bet on races happening in other states.
Betting on horses is permitted in Maine, at the two racetracks in the state plus four additional off-track venues. However, the state also has strict regulations surrounding online gambling, which means neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available.
This may not be the case for much longer however. Maine has made good progress with a push to legalize sports betting in general, with a bill passed in the 2019 legislative session before being vetoed shortly after. Signs are positive that online gambling may arrive to Maine sooner rather than later.
Horse racing is a declining industry in Michigan. The state is down to its sole operating racetrack. However, a thriving casino industry exists in the state, as well as a growing movement to legalize online gambling.
A bill was almost passed in the 2019 legislative session, and is supported both by many lawmakers and the casino and horse racing industries in the state. For now though, strict regulations mean that neither TVG nor TwinSpires operate in Michigan.
Mississippi has been active in liberalizing betting laws in recent years, with sports betting becoming legal in the state in 2018. Unfortunately, this did not include online or mobile betting.
Regulations in Mississippi remain strict, allowing only physical betting on sports. This means that neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available in the state. A bill was introduced to allow online betting in 2019, but it did not pass.
Expect more attempts to relax these laws in the future.
Missouri has fairly strict regulations regarding online gambling, which means that neither TVG nor TwinSpires operates in the state.
Like many other states, there has been progress made in Missouri to relax sports betting laws. 2018 saw a bill fail to pass in the legislature, while new bills were written in 2019.
Expect the push to make online betting more widely available to continue.
Five horse and greyhound racetracks exist in Nebraska, which allow pari-mutuel betting including simulcast, but only on-site. Betting online is illegal in Nebraska, and for this reason TVG and TwinSpires are not available in the state.
Unfortunately, that situation does not appear to be changing any time soon. Nebraska is one of the few states that has not made any moves to relax online gambling laws.
The only bright spot is that online fantasy sports are legal in the state, hinting that maybe Nebraska residents are not totally opposed to all forms of online gambling.
Despite being the US capital of gambling, Nevada is by no means a betting free-for-all. The state has some of the strictest regulations around, to protect the industry.
While betting on horse racing online is legal in Nevada, it can only be done via local casino-operated apps.
Due to this, TVG and TwinSpires are not available to bettors in Nevada.
It’s hard to know if this situation is likely to change. Nevada likes to have the best gambling options in the country, and both TVG and TwinSpires are extremely popular. At the same time, Las Vegas casinos want to protect their own action. For now, TVG and TwinSpires do not operate in the state.
North Carolina has historically had very restrictive gambling laws, with no land-based or online betting available in the state. For this reason, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available.
However, things are changing. In July 2019, lawmakers signed a bill to allow both sports betting and horse race betting on tribal lands. Further bills which would expand gambling laws even further are currently being considered, so there is hope that TVG might arrive to the state in the future.
Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing is legal in Oklahoma, and available at the state’s racetracks. Online betting however is not permitted under state laws, which is why TVG is not active in the state.
Despite this, TwinSpires operates in Oklahoma without issues.
A number of bills have been floated in 2018 and 2019 to expand betting laws in the state, so TVG may join TwinSpires sooner rather than later.
South Carolina is a very conservative state in gambling terms, and basically all forms of gambling, either online or offline, are not legal.
Neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available in the state.
A bill was introduced in 2018 to legalize sports betting, but the session ended without it passing. We can expect further efforts to relax the strict laws in the coming months and years.
Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing is legal in Texas, but online betting is not. Due to this, both TVG and TwinSpires avoid offering access to residents of the state.
Texas has taken the first tentative steps to liberalizing their sports betting laws in 2019, when a representative submitted a bill relating to the regulation of sports betting. The bill has not been voted on, and no further details have emerged. While the signs are positive, it might be a while before TVG begins to operate in Texas.
While many state laws simply do not address betting or online gambling, Utah’s constitution explicitly sets out the state’s opposition to all forms of gambling. Utah has a history of taking a strong anti-gambling position.
Neither TVG nor TwinSpires are available in the state.
Nevertheless, even in one of the most conservative gambling states in the US there has been some activity towards relaxing the laws. A local lawmaker began to push a bill in early 2019 designed specifically to legalize betting on horse racing.
Although this is a small positive sign, any breakthrough is likely to be a long way off.
Wisconsin is one such state which does not have specific laws or regulations related to online gambling. Since it’s something of a grey area, TVG does not operate in the state. However, TwinSpires is available with no issues.
It looks unlikely that Wisconsin will legislate for the issue any time soon, but since TwinSpires is available to state residents it is certainly possible that TVG will become available in the near future too.
States That Don’t Allow TwinSpires
As discussed above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires operate in Alaska
Arizona (partly available)
TwinSpires has exactly the same arrangement in Arizona as TVG – bets may be placed in the state but only via an automated telephone wagering system. TwinSpires users will be able to access their account in the state, but not bet online.
Betting on horse racing is legal in Colorado, and although there are no specific allowances in state laws for online horse race betting, TVG and other sites operate in Colorado without problems.
Nevertheless, TwinSpires has avoided launching in Colorado. This is likely due to concerns regarding regulations, but since TVG has no issues it is very possible TwinSpires will arrive to the state soon.
As already described, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are present in Georgia.
As above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Hawaii.
As discussed already, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Idaho.
Indiana allows betting on horse racing, and TVG is currently active in the state. Online sports betting is not yet legal, and this is probably the reason that TwinSpires is yet to launch in the state.
However, a sports betting bill which allows for online betting was signed into law in 2019, and the state gaming commission is almost ready to accept their first bets.
The likelihood is that TwinSpires will be available in the state pretty soon.
As previously mentioned, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Maine.
As above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Michigan.
Online betting on horse racing is legal in Minnesota, provided residents are not betting on a couple of the local tracks. TVG is active in the state, but TwinSpires is yet to launch.
Since Minnesota has fairly relaxed laws surrounding online horse race betting, we expect TwinSpires to arrive in the state in the near future.
As mentioned already, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Mississippi.
As already discussed, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Missouri.
As can be seen above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Nebraska.
As discussed above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Nevada.
New Jersey has taken great leaps in offering all kinds of legal online sports betting since 2018. However, any online sportsbooks or apps operating in the state must be connected to a physical casino or racetrack.
Due to these restrictions, only two horse race betting sites have received licences in the state. One of them is TVG, although it effectively operates under the name 4NJBets in New Jersey.
TwinSpires is yet to receive a licence to operate in the state.
Online betting on horse racing is legal in New Mexico. Although TwinSpires is yet to reach the state, TVG is currently available.
Due to this, it is likely that TwinSpires will become available in the state before too long.
As seen above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in North Carolina.
As discussed, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in South Carolina.
As mentioned above, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Texas.
As already mentioned, neither TVG nor TwinSpires are active in Utah.
How Does Betting on Horses Work?
Betting on horse races is easy, and betting online is just the same as betting in person at the racetrack. To put it simply, you choose the horse you think will win the race and if the horse wins, you win money.
There are more complicated bets and terminology to get the hang of, which we will explain briefly below.
The amount of money you win depends on the odds.
How to Understand Horse Race Betting Odds
The odds in a race are just like odds in other sports.
Each horse in a race is given odds, which show you how likely the sportsbook believe the horse is to win. In most US sports, the moneyline format is the most common way that odds are expressed. However, with horse racing fractional odds tend to be more common.
For example, a typical line for a race might look like this:
- Horse A – 3/2
- Horse B – 5/2
- Horse C – 4/1
- Horse D – 10/1
In each case to determine how much you would win, simply multiply your stake (or the value of your bet) by the fraction.
So, if you bet $10 on Horse A to win, you would win $15 + your original stake of $10 for a return of $25.
If you bet $10 on Horse D to win, you would win $100 + your original stake of $10 for a return of $110.
Every race has a favorite, which is the horse that is most likely to win according to the odds. In this case, Horse A is the favorite.
Other Types of Bets
In the above examples, the bets are on each horse to win. This means that to win your bet, the horse must come first in the race.
However, there are many other types of bets.
Betting on a Horse to Place
You can bet on a horse to place. This means that to win your bet, the horse must finish either first or second. Whether your horse comes first or second, you win the same amount. However you only receive a fraction of the odds, so you win less money than a “win” bet.
Bet on a Horse to Show
This means that to win your bet, the horse must finish first, second or third. You win the same amount regardless of which position in the top three your horse finishes. Again, you only receive a fraction of the odds, so you win even less than a place bet.
Show and place bets can be especially good for beginners who are learning the sport, and don’t want to risk losing a lot of money at the start.
Other Popular Horse Racing Bets
Another popular form of betting is combination betting.
In a combo bet, you need to make a number of correct predictions to win the bet.
An exacta is a bet where you correctly predict the first two horses in a race, in the correct order.
A trifecta is a bet where you correctly predict the first three horses, in the correct order.
More similar bets are available.
Since these predictions are much harder to make correctly, you stand to win significantly more money than win, place or show bets.
There are also multi-race combination bets, where you need to make multiple correct predictions across multiple races. These tend to be very profitable.
The bets described above are the tip of the iceberg. There are many more different kinds of bets out there, and plenty more to learn.
Both TVG and TwinSpires make betting really easy. Both have the functionality for all of these bets built right into the software. You can check out our full reviews of each for more practical information about how to place bets.
Whether you are just getting used to horse racing odds and want to stick to win-place-show bets, or you want to design multi-leg combination bets, these sites have got you covered.
What Is the Best Way to Bet on Horses?
If you are new to horse racing, it can feel daunting at first. There is a lot to learn, from the different types of bets available, to managing your bankroll, to consistently knowling how to pick winning horses.
If you’re looking for a few guidelines, we’ve got you covered. Below, we have put together some practical tips and strategies, for both new and experiences players, for how to bet on horses and win.
If You Are a Beginner, Stick to Simple Bets
Losing a lot of money while still learning is a common issue for beginning bettors. Win bets are the easiest to understand, so it’s a good idea to start off with these. Keep the stakes low while you learn. A show bet is an even better option. Since your horse only has to come in one of the top three places, you are much less likely to lose. Avoid complicated multi-bet combinations until you have a fuller understanding of the sport.
Do Your Research
This applies both to each race you bet on, and the sport in general. No one starts with an encyclopaedic understanding of the sport. Checking the form of the horses in each race is essential. This essentially means looking at how well or badly each horse has done in recent races. But this should just be the start.
Combine it with other research. What is the weather forecast for the race? Does your horse perform well in the rain? What is the ground like? Check out the jockey’s record. The more pieces of information you can put together, the more likely you are to make good prediction and be a long term winner.
Timing Is Everything
Line movement is more important in horse racing than in any other sport. Line movement refers to the odds on a horse changing, generally in response to a lot of action being placed on the race.
If lots of people are betting on a horse, its odds will go down. Conversely, the odds of other horses in the race may go up, which can be an opportunity to bet against the favorite. Knowing when to place your bets to get the best value is essential.
If you notice a horse’s odds begin to come down, you can act quickly and bet on the horse while you consider it is still good value. If you back it early enough, you may well get the horse at much better odds than when the line closes. Equally however, if a horse has been backed into very small odds, you should resist the urge to bet on it if you feel it no longer represents good value.
Timing is key in knowing how to bet on horses and win, and the more experience you have, the better your feel for timing will become.
Can you use a VPN to Bet on Horse Racing Online?
It may be possible to use a VPN to bet on horse racing online, but it is not something we recommend. A VPN is a tool to make it appear that you are accessing the site from a different geographical location.
However, this does not make accessing the site legal. Betting on horse racing online in a state where it is not legal, even with a VPN, is still illegal.
To make sure you don’t run into any legal issues, we strongly recommend only using horse race betting sites in states where they are licenced and regulated.
Horse Betting FAQs
Is horse racing considered gambling?
Betting on horse racing is a form of gambling, but in the US law it is considered differently to other kinds of sports betting. There was a federal ban on sports betting in place from 1992 to 2018, but horse racing wasn’t included. Laws surrounding betting on horse racing are much more relaxed and it’s legal in various forms in most US states.
Is horse betting legal?
It depends on the state but most areas in the US allow legal betting on horse racing. There is no federal law that prevents horse race betting, and each state determines its own laws for the activity.
Can you bet on horse races online?
Yes, provided you are in a state where horse race betting is legal and no other state laws block betting online. Currently TVG and TwinSpires are available in more than half of the states in the US.
What is the best horse racing betting site?
There are a number of sites available in the US, and the best site for you may well depend on where you live. However, TVG and TwinSpires are the two most popular sites and offer the greatest variety in terms of races, betting types and sign up bonuses.
Is TwinSpires a legit site?
Yes. TwinSpires is totally legal to use in the majority of US states, and is subject to strict regulation. If TwinSpires is available in your state, it means the site has received a gaming licence from the local gaming commission. Your personal information and funds are protected. We have no security concerns regarding TwinSpires.
Is TVG a legit site?
Yes. TVG is subject to a dedicated regulatory body in each of the 32 states where the site is available. All of your transactions are protected and all of your personal data is private and protected. Provided you are in one of the allowed states, TVG is completely safe to use.
How are horse race payouts calculated?
Payouts are determined by the odds. Each horse is given odds to win the race, which refers to how likely the sportsbook thinks it is to win. Odds are generally expressed as a fraction, and to determine how much you stand to win, simply multiply your stake by the fraction. For example, if the odds are 2/1 and you bet $10, you stand to win $20 + your $10 stake for a return of $30.